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National Health Insurance could face bankruptcy by 2025: minister

The China Post--Minister without Portfolio James Hsueh (薛承泰) said that by 2025, expenses related to the National Health Insurance (NHI) program will be twice the amount in 2010, and that the NHI system may become bankrupt.

Department of Health (DOH) chief Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said that the NHI system may start to post a deficit starting from 2015 or 2017 based on different premium rates and the speed that expenses increase because of demographic change.

Despite the warning from Hsueh and the DOH's estimate, the DOH might still reduce the premium rate to 4.91 percent.

DOH Vice Minister Day Guey-ing (戴桂英) stated that even if the NHI premium rate were reduced to 4.91 percent, the NHI system could obtain the same amount of income from supplementary premium income and the government subsidy.

According to Day, if the NHI premium rate were set at 5.17 percent, the bureau could collect NT$477.1 billion a year. The bureau could expect to collect NT$463.5 billion a year if the NHI premium rate were set at 5 percent. If the rate were 4.91 percent, then the bureau could collect NT$456.3 billion a year.

Based on the department's data, a decrease in the premium rate from 5.17 to 4.91 percent would see the bureau's income reduced by NT$20.8 billion a year.

Bureau of National Health Insurance Director-General Huang San-quei (黃三桂) said that even with the DOH raising the threshold on collecting supplementary premiums from NT$2,000 to NT$5,000, the government can still expect to collect approximately NT$20 billion a year from supplementary premium. So, even if the premium rate were reduced to 4.91 percent the NHI system may still break even.

Day added that currently the government is responsible for 33.8 percent of the NHI system's expenses. If supplementary premium program provides less than expected income, the government would increase its spending to cover 36 percent of the NHI expenses. In other words, the government might be forced to raise its spending by NT$14.8 billion.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chiech-ju (陳節如) noted that the DOH already had to increase its spending by NT$40 billion to fix the problem of a lack of personnel. If the premium rate is reduced, the DOH might face greater difficulties to make the ends meet.

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